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Fehmarnbelt tunnel: Portal in Puttgarden
Fehmarnbelt tunnel: Portal in Puttgarden

Source: Femern A/S

The Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link from coast to coast across the 20 km wide strait is to consist of an electrified double-track railway line and a four-lane road link. It will connect Puttgarden on the German island of Fehmarn and Rødby on the Danish island of Lolland. In addition, there will be the necessary road and railway hinterland connections in Germany and Denmark. It might start operation in 2028, provided that construction starts in 2020.

The Kingdom of Denmark is responsible for the construction, operation and financing of the structure. The link is to be funded by user charges. For this purpose, the Kingdom of Denmark may impose tolls for road use and charges for use of the railway lines.

State Treaty between Germany and Denmark

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The Federal Government, in close cooperation with the state of Schleswig-Holstein, has concluded a State Treaty with Denmark on the delivery of the belt link, which was signed on 3 September 2008. The key message is that both sides undertake to do everything in their power to deliver the project. For the implementation of the Treaty, national approval procedures had to be carried out in Germany and Denmark.

In Germany, the Treaty was transposed into national law by the “Act of 17 July 2009 on the Treaty of 3 September 2008 between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Denmark on a Fixed Link across the Fehmarn Belt” (Federal Law Gazette II, p. 799). With the exchange of the instruments of ratification between the contracting states on 15 December 2009, the Treaty entered into force on 14 January 2010. In Denmark, the parliament adopted the national bill on the “Act on Project Planning for a Fixed Link over the Fehmarn Belt, with Associated Land Facilities in Denmark” on 26 March 2009. On 15 April 2009, the Queen of Denmark gave her royal assent to the Planning Act on the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link.

In April 2009, the Danish Minister of Transport passed a law tasking the Femern A/S company with responsibility for preparatory work, studies and the planning/design for a Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link.

Femern A/S is part of Sund & Bælt Holding A/S, which is a fully state-owned enterprise of the Danish Ministry of Transport.

Cross-section of the planned Fehmarnbelt tunnel
Cross-section of the planned Fehmarnbelt tunnel

Source: Femern A/S

Chronology of developments

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August 2017: The Transport Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Bernd Buchholz, meets with the Danish Transport Minister, Ole Birk Olesen, at the future construction site of the tunnel factory in Rødby, Denmark. Both Ministers express their hope that the plan approval decision on the Fehmarnbelt project will be issued in 2018.

July 2017: In the course of the plan approval procedure, the second round of the public local inquiry is concluded.

May 2017: The inquiry involving the competent authorities (public agencies), affected landowners and other objectors, scheduled for 22 May to 27 July 2017 by the plan approval authority, begins.

February 2017: On 15 February 2017, Femern A/S and LBV-Lübeck reply to around 12,600 objections and submit these replies to the LBV-SH in Kiel, the competent plan approval authority.

July 2016: The public consultation procedure for the revised application documents begins. Objections in the context of the second participation procedure can be raised with the public consultation authority until 26 August 2016.

June 2016: Femern A/S (for the railway part of the tunnel) and the Lübeck establishment of the federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-Lübeck; for the road part of the tunnel) submit the official application to modify the plans to the federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-SH, public consultation authority) after updating the documents in the context of the first participation procedure.

May 2016: Femern A/S concludes four main construction contracts worth four billion euros with selected construction consortia. Whether the contracts will take effect, depends on the final German plan approval decision.

March 2016: Denmark’s parliamentary steering body gives Femern A/S a mandate to sign conditional contracts.

February 2016: Femern A/S presents an updated financial analysis. This analysis now estimates a total budget of 7 billion euros including reserves of 1 billion euros. Two different scenarios are examined, one in which construction works start in 2018 and one in which works start in 2020.

January 2016: Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt and Minister Dobrindt get together for a working meeting in Copenhagen.

November 2015: Conclusion of the public local enquiries; Femern A/S will now incorporate changes resulting from the inquiries into the plan approval documentation. The updated plan approval documents are to be submitted to the public consultation and plan approval authority in spring 2016.

October 2015: Reinhard Meyer, the Transport Minister of Schleswig-Holstein, informs the Danish parliament in Copenhagen and the new Transport Minister Hans Christian Schmidt about the current status of the plan approval procedure, explaining that due to the many objections and the necessary planning modifications resulting from them, a plan approval decision was expected only in 2017.

September 2015: Femern A/S announces that it will create several environmental supervisor posts. They will be points of contact for the environmental and tourism sectors and are supposed to ensure that the construction companies comply with all conditions.

August 2015: During their first meeting in Berlin, Federal Chancellor Merkel and Denmark’s new Head of Government, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, underline their mutual commitment to the realization of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel.

June 2015: The federal state agency for road construction and transport (LBV-SH) announces the dates for the meetings to discuss the objections and comments in the context of the plan approval procedure.

April 2015: At a meeting on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Bonn-Copenhagen Declaration, Chancellor Merkel and the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt express their clear commitment to the joint project and underline its importance for the European Union.

April 2015: The Danish Parliament adopts the Building Act for the FBQ with a large majority, authorising Femern A/S to build and operate the tunnel. In Denmark, the Building Act also includes an environmental authorization of the project.

February 2015: The Danish Transport Ministry and the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure file a joint application for funds from the European Commission for the construction of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. The FBQ is part of the Trans-European Transport Network and belongs to the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN core network corridor.

February 2015: The Danish Transport Minister Magnus Heunicke and Federal Minister Alexander Dobrindt discuss the current situation. Both ministers confirm that the project itself is not called into question.

December 2014: The selected building consortia present their first bids. These involve unexpected cost increases compared to the financial analysis of November. Femern A/S is tasked with negotiating measures that could help reduce the costs with the consortia.

December 2014: Initial studies of the DB AG on the alignment selected during the spatial planning procedure suggest that the new railway line will be put into service in 2024. The Danish Transport Minister is informed.

November 2014: In the context of the preparatory work for the Danish Building Act, Femern A/S presents an updated financial analysis and an updated traffic forecast.

July 2014: In the course of the consultation procedure, more than 3,000 objections and comments have been received that need to be evaluated. Following this, dates for the public local inquiries will be set during which the comments will be discussed with the authors. A plan approval decision can only be issued after the consultation procedure is concluded.

Also May 2014: Beginning of the public exhibition of the plan approval documentation for the immersed tube tunnel in Germany. From 5 May to 3 July 2014, the documents are exhibited on the island of Fehmarn and in several local authorities and agencies that are affected by the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link (consultation procedure). In addition, the application documents can be accessed on the Internet. During this period, competent authorities, environmental organisations and affected citizens can submit objections and comments to the plan approval authority LBV Kiel.

May 2014: The Federal State Government of Schleswig-Holstein presents the outcome of the spatial impact assessment procedure for the hinterland rail connection. After evaluating 8,300 comments, it is recommended to use the option of an alignment that bypasses the Baltic Sea resorts and several other places, since this is most consistent with the requirements of spatial planning. The recommendation has met with widespread public approval. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has tasked DB AG to take over the further planning of the basis for the spatial planning option.

April 2014: Femern A/S receives the technical bids of the nine pre-qualified building consortia for the tunnel construction. Based on these, the construction companies are to draw up final bidding documents including price calculations by the end of the year.

March 2014: In Denmark and Northern Germany, information events are organized for small and medium-sized undertakings that qualify as suppliers for the construction of the tunnel.

October 2013: The plan approval application for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link in Germany is handed over by the project company Femern A/S in Kiel. The competent plan approval authority is the federal state agency for road construction and transport. The documents comprise more than 10,000 pages and 230 plans. 8,700 pages alone deal with environmental topics. Since November 2013, the documents have been available for inspection on the Femern A/S website.

May 2013: As part of a prequalification procedure launched in October 2012, nine consortia (including from Germany) are selected. They are to be invited to submit bids for the 4 major construction contracts at a later date. Tenders are invited for 4 contracts:

  1. deepening of the sea bed and land reclamation;
  2. construction of the northern section of the tunnel;
  3. construction of the southern section of the tunnel;
  4. construction of portals, ramps and shore facilities.

January 2013: In Schleswig-Holstein, a spatial planning procedure is conducted within the context of the planning for the German hinterland rail connection. The documents will be available for public inspection until 11 March 2013, and the public will have the opportunity to comment until 25 March 2013.

Also September 2012: Fehmarnbelt Days in Hamburg and Lübeck. During these 3 days, more than 600 participants discuss ideas, opportunities and perspectives for the Fehmarnbelt region. This event was organised by the Baltic Development Forum, the Fehmarnbelt Business Council (FBBC), the Fehmarnbelt Committee, Femern A/S, Femern Belt Development, Lübeck Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the STRING network.

September 2012: On 1 September 2012, Claus F. Baunkjær takes over from Leo Larsen as CEO of Femern A/S, with Mr Larsen continuing in his position as CEO of the parent company, Sund & Bælt Holding A/S.

April 2012: Femern A/S presents a revised schedule. According to this schedule, the opening date of the tunnel will be put back to the end of 2021, because the preparation of the approval procedure in Germany and Denmark is very complicated. Approval of the construction of the Fehmarnbelt tunnel is subject to compliance with European regulations and the laws and procedures that are in force in Germany and Denmark. As the transposition of EU directives differs significantly between the two countries, the need for coordination and detailed planning is considerably larger than expected.

January 2012: Femern A/S publishes a consolidated technical report detailing the main features of the four possible link options: immersed tunnel, cable-stayed bridge, suspension bridge and bored tunnel.

September 2011: The state of Schleswig-Holstein launches the Fehmarnbelt forum for dialogue to provide extensive information to all stakeholders as well as to the general public. The documentation from the meetings as well as documents on the issues covered can be found on the website of the forum.

August 2011: Femern A/S publishes a consolidated statement of costs. According to this statement, the construction of the immersed tunnel will require investment of 5.5 billion euros, and the Danish hinterland connection will cost approximately 1.1 billion (at 2008 prices). The repayment period is estimated to be 39 years.

June 2011: The Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Dr Peter Ramsauer, visits Eastern Holstein to see for himself the progress of the project and, in particular, of the hinterland rail connections.

May 2011: It is decided that Rødbyhavn will be the sole production site for the tunnel elements. The reason for this is EU Directive 85/337/EEC (EIA Directive), which states that environmental impact assessments (EIAs) must be carried out not only for the project itself but also at the production sites. This would have required additional planning and approval procedures and, in consequence, would have resulted in delays. The decision was therefore taken in favour of a single production site.

February 2011: The Danish Minister of Transport and the Danish Parliament decide to pursue the construction of an immersed tunnel as the preferred option for the link.

14 January 2010: The Treaty between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Denmark on a Fixed Link across the Fehmarn Belt - signed on 3 September 2008) - enters into force. Based on this, Denmark assumes responsibility for the planning, construction and funding of the crossing structure.

Hinterland connections in Germany

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Connection of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link
Connection of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link

Source: Femern A/S

According to the State Treaty, the Kingdom of Denmark has the sole responsibility for the construction and financing of the hinterland connections of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link in the Kingdom of Denmark, and Germany has the sole responsibility for the connections in the Federal Republic of Germany.

In Germany, the hinterland road connection is to be established by upgrading the B 207 motorway to 4 lanes between the junctions of Heiligenhafen-Ost and Puttgarden. On 31 August 2015, plan approval was granted for the entire stretch yet to be built, with the exception of the Fehmarnsund Bridge. A complaint was filed against this decision.

For the hinterland rail connection, the competent federal state authority in Schleswig Holstein, in the course of a spatial planning procedure, conducted a review on the compatibility of different alignments with spatial planning objectives from January 2013 to May 2014. As a result, the planning authority of the state of Schleswig-Holstein regards the following option as the solution that is most consistent with the requirements of spatial planning:

  • Bypasses for the Baltic Sea resorts of Timmendorf, Scharbeutz, Haffkrug and Sierksdorf without preserving the existing tracks
  • Bypasses for Ratekau, Lensahn and Großenbrode; in the cases of Neustadt and Oldenburg, DB AG had already planned bypassing the existing tracks
  • The new construction of 73 percent of the line has to be planned (55 of the 75 km between Bad Schwartau and Großenbrode - total length of the line is 89 km)

These bypasses are in particular justified with the protection of residents from noise and vibration. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has tasked DB AG with drawing up further plans on the basis of the selected option immediately. Currently, DB Netz AG is preparing the plan approval procedure. The continuous double-track electrified line (with the exception of the Fehrmarnsund link) designed for speeds up to 200 km/h is to be put into service at the same time as the FBQ. Information on the planning process is available on the Deutsche Bahn AG website.

Due to the envisaged electrification of the line and the 2025 traffic forecast, stress tests have been carried out on the Fehmarnsund Bridge. These showed that the bridge would no longer meet future requirements. With the current traffic levels, however, there are no safety issues. Therefore, different new construction and reinforcement options for bridge and tunnel solutions were examined.

An economic comparison and a cost-benefit analysis suggest that the most probable bridge and tunnel solutions are the new construction options with either one structure shared by both modes of transport or two separate structures for road and rail. The decision for one option will be taken in 2019 when the results of the preliminary planning work awarded in 2016 are available. Environmental studies for the Fehmarnsund link have also been conducted since 2016.

Environmental protection

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With transport infrastructure projects of this magnitude, environmental impacts are unavoidable. It is therefore particularly important to address the project’s potential impacts in the ecologically sensitive Fehmarn Belt area. A number of requirements and conditions regarding the planning and construction of the structure ensure that adverse effects are avoided or minimised to the greatest extent possible.

In the ongoing plan approval procedure, environmental issues are a central topic. Details on this topic can be found on the FEMERN A/S website, the company that is responsible for planning.

Trans-European Transport Network

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Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link and “Scandinavian-Mediterranean“ TEN core network corridor
Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link and “Scandinavian-Mediterranean“ TEN core network corridor

Source: Femern A/S

Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 of 11 December 2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) lists the fixed link across the Fehmarn Belt as well as the landside connections in Germany and Denmark as parts of the TEN core network. At the same time, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link is a key element of the central north-south artery between Scandinavia and Central Europe within the Scandinavian-Mediterranean TEN core network corridor.

The EU Commission regards the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link as one of the five most important cross-border projects of the TEN-T network (communication of 10 January 2014 (COM(2013) 940 final). So far, studies and preparatory work in Germany and Denmark have been subsidized with EU funds from the TEN-T programme (attachment only available in German). The European Commission has promised funding totalling around 590 million euros for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Links as well as funding totalling around 120 million euros for the Danish hinterland rail connections until 2020.

Past and ongoing studies

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In 1992, the Transport Ministers of Germany and Denmark agreed to conduct studies in order to create a common basis for the decision-making process regarding the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link. Since then, comprehensive feasibility studies for the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link project (civil engineering, geology, environment, traffic forecast, macroeconomic and fiscal assessment, socio-economic regional study) have been conducted.

In the spring of 2000, an enquiry of commercial interest was conducted to explore the possibilities for delivery of the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link by the private sector. To narrow down the risk factors listed in the enquiry of commercial interest, the traffic forecast was updated and the revenue from rail transport was reassessed. Subsequently, two of the models presented in the enquiry of commercial interest were recalculated based on the updated assumptions.

In the course of a review of the requirement plans in November 2010, the Fehmarnbelt Fixed Link was once again subjected to a value for money assessment. The result was a benefit-cost ratio of 6.7 This confirmed that the project represents extremely good value for money. The assessment was carried out on the basis of the forecast of Germany-wide transport interconnectivity in 2025. The cost-benefit analysis applied is a macroeconomic appraisal procedure. The analysis was carried out in an identical way for all evaluated rail projects.